“No Sleep Till Benghazi”
Photo of rebel fighters in central Benghazi courtesy of IRIN
If this post looks a little familiar it’s because it began as my brief and cursory commentary about a classic Larry Burrows’ photo from the Vietnam War and LIFE magazine’s caption for it. The New York Times’ CJ Chivers (whose Tumblr you can find and follow here) added to it and offers important commentary about the use of air power today. Don’t miss it:
Air war has evolved. And Western reliance on it, and the seductive promises of its power and precision, has freed military minds to engage in ground campaigns that otherwise would be impossible. Nick Turse, on the blog post below, and with the photograph above, shows American air power for what it was not too long ago. If you have ever been attacked by an aircraft, you know something of what this the scene above is like from the other side.
Read Mr. Turse’s post below. But don’t draw lines too bright between old practices and new. For all of the changes (many of them made possible by the technology behind guided munitions) modern Western militaries remain loathe to admit or examine their mistakes and eager to assure all listeners that all is well. For the rest of us, it remains difficult to assess how air-to-ground campaigns fare, and what they really bring us, as long as governments and alliances refuse to be transparent about them. You can frame a moral case that transparency and honesty are for the sake of victims, for survivors, for citizens who underwrite air power, and for bomb-disposal crews invariably summoned to clean up the post-war mess. And moral cases are good. But you can also frame a practical argument that transparency and honesty are essential for national security, which is not much improved, and arguably undermined, when noncombatants are killed — as field work in the face of government denials shows they are, again and again.
As the West uses its air power for plinking where it sees fit, are we better for it? Are we safer? We don’t offer an answer. But we do think on the questions, most every day, and chase for answers out in the places where the rockets and the bombs actually strike.
LIFE magazine captioned this as an “American twin-jet F-4C Phantom heading toward tiny riverside village known to be an important Vietcong site to bomb it during Vietnam War.” The problem of course is that all these villages that were “Vietcong strongholds”were filled with civilians — women, children, old men — who lost homes, limbs, and lives to American rockets.
Photographer: Larry Burrows, 1966
An aside: Nick Turse has a book out. It looks worth tossing into your backpack and packing into your head. Here.
Ben Lowy’s iLibya was featured in MotherJones as part of the MotherJones-Magnum foundation partnership. His work in Libya using an iPhone examines the scars and new hopes of the revolution-torn nation.
View the essay here.
Officials at the White House and State Department were advised two hours after attackers assaulted the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11 that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit for the attack, official emails show.
One of the emails, obtained by Reuters from government sources not connected with U.S. spy agencies or the State Department and who requested anonymity, specifically mentions that the Libyan group called Ansar al-Sharia had asserted responsibility for the attacks.
The brief emails also show how U.S. diplomats described the attack, even as it was still under way, to Washington.
U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the Benghazi assault, which President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials ultimately acknowledged was a “terrorist” attack carried out by militants with suspected links to al Qaeda affiliates or sympathizers.
|—||Barbara Doherty, mother of Glen Doherty, a former Navy SEAL who was killed in Benghazi, Libya last month. (Romney had been talking about Glen Doherty during campaign events.) Romney will stop telling story of Navy SEAL killed in Benghazi - POLITICO.com|
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Photographer Jehad Nga’s project depicts the conflicting values of Libyan culture through gathered images broken down into binary code and disrupted by the rhetoric of Muammar Gaddafi’s doctrine.
See more photos here.
John Cassidy breaks down the order of events in Cairo, Libya, and the U.S. over the past 24 hours, and considers how they might affect the Romney and Obama’s campaigns: http://nyr.kr/OHoY02
There will be plenty of time to discuss the rights and wrongs. But before getting into all that, I thought it might be worth setting down how the past twenty-four hours unfolded. With events taking place in three countries, on two continents, there has been a lot of confusion about who said what when. Here’s a quick timeline I put together from the Web. As far as I can see, Romney doesn’t come out of it looking any better….
Today, the Fund for Peace today released the eighth edition of its annual Failed States Index (FSI), highlighting global political, economic and social pressures experienced by states. For the fifth straight year, Somalia — increasingly a war zone for the Obama administration — ranks number one. Afghanistan, a U.S. war zone for the last decade ranks a dismal six, Haiti — a frequent site of U.S. military invention throughout the last 100 years — comes in at number seven and Yemen, where the U.S. is also increasingly at war, is just behind at number eight on the list.
The Fund for Peace further explains that:
“Other notable changes this year include countries affected by the Arab Spring. Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Tunisia all ranked significantly worse than the previous year. Libya’s decline was the most remarkable, with the country registering the worst year-on-year worsening in the history of the FSI as a result of civil war, a NATO-led campaign of airstrikes and the toppling of the Qaddhafi regime. Similarly, Syria registered the fourth-greatest year-on-year worsening in the history of the FSI as the campaign of violence by the Assad government took hold.
In the wake of the massive earthquake and resultant nuclear crisis, Japan also worsened significantly. Though Japan continues to rank among the best seven percent of countries, Japan’s near-record worsening on the FSI demonstrates how susceptible even the most stable of nations are to sudden shocks.
Greece continued to decline as the economic crisis has gripped the country. A loss of confidence in the state, coinciding with the state’s lessened capacity to provide public services, have led to growing social pressures.
The Fund for Peace assessed South Sudan this year for the first time after the new nation gained its independence in the second half of 2011. Though the FSI does not formally rank South Sudan due to an incomplete year of data, the young nation nevertheless would have ranked approximately fourth, immediately behind its northern neighbor, Sudan. South Sudan’s fragile infrastructure, severe poverty, weak government, fraught relations with Sudan and heavy reliance on oil continue to be of concern.”
So this one time I was published in an ebook and had no idea. Tasbeeh messaged me yesterday to let me know she had just discovered that the two of us had been published in a McSweeney’s/Byliner e-publication this past May called: Now That We Have Tasted Hope: Voices from the Arab Spring.
Several revolutionary song translations from a handful of countries, accompanied by backgrounder information, which I gave McSweeney’s last fall, are published here alongside a number of very cool primary source documents from Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. My song translations appear in the Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Syria sections and the whole collection is full of other songs, poems, blog posts, flyers, speech translations and republished essays like Tasbeeh’s. It costs 4.99 to download on Amazon and 3.82 on Google and is available at a few other ebook sellers, if you want to look at the collection. And if you can, you should. It has a quite incredible array of material.
A very important thing I want to note: I contributed several translations to McSweeney’s, including songs by Ramy Essam, Ibn Thabit and Ibrahim Qashoush, but they credited me with the translation of Tunisian singer Amel Mathlouthi’s haunting “Kelmti Horra (My Word is Free).” While I was the one who found the lyrics and wrote the background information for the song, those song lyrics are not, I repeat not, my own. The credit goes to Arab Song Lyrics and Translation, which you should check out for a ton of other songs. My deepest apologies for the mix-up.
This Week in War. A Friday round-up of what happened and what’s been written in the world of war and military/security affairs this week. It’s a mix of news reports, policy briefs, blog posts and longform journalism.
- Prominent Palestinian writer Salameh Kaileh spent three weeks in detention in various Syrian prisons over suspicion that he was handing out leaflets calling for Assad’s downfall. Kaileh described the prisons as a “human slaughterhouses” and “hell on earth.”
- UN Sec’y General Ban Ki-Moon told Christiane Amanpour that there is “no Plan B” for Syria at this moment.
- The violence in Syria spilled further over the border into Lebanon, igniting clashes throughout the week.
- Rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah have agreed to a deal that will lead to elections and a unity government in the West Bank and Gaza.
- A huge suicide bombing in Sana’a, Yemen, on Monday, killed more than 100 and was claimed by militants connected with Al Qaeda.
- The Lockerbie bomber died in Libya on Sunday.
- Pakistani Dr. Shakil Afridi, who assisted the CIA in ascertaining bin Laden’s whereabouts, has been sentenced in Pakistan to 33 years for treason.
- It’s been another very bloody week in Karachi.
- On Tuesday, the Senate appropriations subcommittee on foreign aid voted to cut aid to Pakistan by 58% and threatened further cuts if Pakistan doesn’t reopen supply lines.
- At the Chicago summit, NATO leaders decided on a permanent timetable in which Afghan forces will take over combat command in mid-2013 and NATO combat forces will leave by 2014.
- US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, will be leaving his post this summer.
- Five kidnapped aid workers are apparently being held for ransom in Shahr-e Bozorg, Afghanistan. Negotiations are ongoing.
- The State Dept. spent $1800 per student per day in 2010 for its Anti-Terrorism Training program in North Africa, the Middle East and South and Central Asia. The total money spent on programs like this since 9/11 is $1.4b. The State Dept’s Inspector General released a report on these programs for public consumption this week.
- Talks over the Iranian nuclear program resumed in Baghdad this week, hitting a snag on negotiations over sanctions.
- The military junta in Guinea-Bissau has handed over power to a civilian government.
- Dioncounda Traoré, the interim president of Mali, was beset by protesters on Monday, who stormed the presidential palace and beat him unconscious.
- A yearlong probe identified 1800 cases of fake parts in US military equipment. A suspected million such fake parts are out there, and 70% of these parts can be traced back to China.
- CNAS released a policy report outlining suggestions for reforming the structure and operation of the military.
- A 2011 Army memo obtained by Danger Room shows that the Army has had extensive concerns about the long-term health risks associated with the combat burn pit operated at Bagram Airfield. Service-members have been coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with puzzling health problems, most likely associated with exposure to these burn pits. A recent animal study also came to light showing that burn pits not only adversely affects lungs in the short term, but has serious long-term impacts on the immune system.
- Two female Army reservists have filed suit in district court to remove the restriction on combat service in the military based “solely on sex,” saying the restriction violates their 5th amendment right to due process.
- A new GAO report says that wounded service-members are now waiting an average of a year for their official disability evaluation. This is a big increase, and the wait time has been on the up for the last three years.
- Congressional investigators want an explanation within 10 days from the Defense Logistics Agency as to why the military was double-billed and excessively charged to the tune of $750m for food supplies.
- One of the owners of a firm involved in propaganda operations for the Pentagon has publicly admitted to creating a series of websites in a misinformation campaign attacking two USA Today journalists who had reported on the contracting company.
- The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the ACLU’s challenge to the 2008 FISA Amendments, the warrantless wiretapping legislation which grants the NSA the power to tap the international phone calls and emails made by US citizens. Just this Tuesday, a Senate panel voted to extend these provisions, which the White House hopes to extend beyond its year-end expiration date.Photo: Logar province, eastern Afghanistan. During a helicopter transport, US Army medic with the C Company 3/82 Dustoff medevac attends to an Afghan National Army soldier wounded by gunshot. Danish Siddiqui/Reuters.